Dylan, Willie & Mellencamp – Stockton, CA – August 15, 2009
It was hot in Stockton waiting outside the Banner Island Ballpark – home of the Ports. The local classic rock station had their truck with speakers blaring right in our ears. 40th anniversary of Woodstock weekend. The crowd was in good spirits as we made our way slowly in through the gates and by the undermanned stadium staff. After finding seats loaded up on beer.
Have seen Dylan countless times dating back to 63/64 but this was my first encounter with Willie and John Mellencamp.
The Wiyos opened with a short opening set of western swing. Entertaining.
Willie and his band kicked things off with a disorganized sounding “Whiskey River” that eventually got on track. They meandered through his hits and wrapped up with a few covers of Hank Williams classics. It was all quite nice if not particularly exciting.
About time to eat. Limited food choices left my vegetarian friend Max contemplating the Corn Dog and Onion Rings platter.
I would not consider myself even close to being a big fan of John Mellencamp having never purchased a recording but have enjoyed his tunes on the radio. So this was a pleasant surprise with a crack band and tight performance of big hits and a few excellent newer songs. He left out “Jack & Diane” creating much consternation with some of the folks seated around us. Though I was disappointed with missing “I Need a Lover” from the John Cougar days. Oh well. Nice set.
Bob Dylan and his band opened with “Ballad of a Thin Man” sung in a painfully raspy voice that I assume was strained from the long tour. “Forever Young” followed with some improvement in the vocal. He sounded strained through most of the show, only occasionally seeming like he got his voice back. But the vocal tricks and mischief were mostly missing. “Hollis Brown” seemed like a strange choice later in the show and was completely unintelligible. “Rollin and Tumblin”, “Highway 61 Revisited” and the closing “Thunder on the Mountain” rocked pretty well. Encores kicked off with a raspy “Like a Rolling Stone” followed by a decent reading of “Jolene” and wrapping up with the latest reworking of “All Along the Watchtower” sporting a decidedly new rhythmic pattern. As we left the stadium my pal Steve said that he wished that Dylan had done “All Along the Watchtower”
All in all probably the least satisfying Dylan show I have seen. I’ll cut him some slack though and blame some sort of endoftouritis or something. The never ending tour takes about 6 weeks off and I think that I’ll give him another chance when he comes to Berkeley in October.